The Little Traveler


I remember my mom taking me to the Little Traveler in Geneva in the 70’s when I was young.  And she remembers her mom taking her to the Little Traveler in the 50’s when she was young.  She described how they would get dressed up and go for tiny sandwiches and tea in the Atrium with her Aunt Laura.  They would shop throughout the store and throughout Geneva.  It was a big excursion.  Remember these were the days when there was no huge indoor shopping malls so you had to go from store to store outside!

My mom would take us to do the same.  Like the Brady Bunch, there were six kids in our family.  I remember sometimes I got to go alone, and sometimes we would take “the little kids”. Our family was separated into the big kids (Greg, Marcia, and Peter) and the little kids (Jan, Bobby and Cindy).  No Alice.  No second marriage.  And my dad was not an architect.  He was a farmer.

Stay with me now… Rod and Greg (Greg and Peter)  usually stayed home to hang around on the farm and to avoid shopping torture, but my mom would take me with “the little kids” …Marcie, Andy, and Monica (Jan, Bobby, and Cindy).

I vividly remember a time though, when we brought “Peter”, uhem…I mean Greg, with to buy dress pants.  Weird how memories go.  Shopping in The Junior Gentlemen.  I just remember going in and out, in and out of store after store looking for the perfect pants.  I wonder if he was picky??   I wonder if it was the pricing…I wonder if they were plaid…or if it was sidewalk sales?  I KNOW one thing, we were not shopping for me.

But one of the fondest memories was the Atrium Cafe.  I remember sitting inside, but feeling like it was a garden. There were fountains gurgling and warm light from the sun coming in, …very small tables, very small chairs and very small sandwiches.  We must all have been very small people back then.  We probably had a tuna salad, egg salad, or ham salad cut into triangles….remember when people made ham salad??? Does anyone out there still make ham salad? I am sure I had peanut butter and jelly.

So on this train trip, I asked “Carol”, I mean Mom, to go with me for some remembering.  There is a lot of history surrounding this home.  

It has been enlarged many times and the rooms are interesting in that there are different levels in the doorways from all of the additions.  It got its retail start back in the 20’s.  Here is a link so you can read all about it:

We started off with 8 minutes to go until the train arrived.  The woman in the station was so confused as to why we would be headed west…she actually said, “You can’t go that way.”  I think she just doesn’t have that many people buy a ticket to Geneva and that don’t buy a ticket to the city (Chicago).  We had to try to persuade her in under 8 minutes to let us buy a ticket.

After that confusion we were lucky enough to have had the most informative conductor on the train.  We asked if he could explain some of the best ways to buy tickets for short trips and give us some of the tricks of the trade.   He sat down and introduced us to the “rules of the tracks”.  If you are lucky enough to ride this line, hopefully you will meet Mitchell.

After landing in Geneva, we walked one block to the Little Traveler.  It was just as we remembered…EXACTLY the same, in fact.

We shopped, talked and ate at the Atrium Cafe.  

Our waiter, who had worked there since 1988, was eager to tell us about the changes in shopping habits and diners in the last 20 years.  He said he loved his job.  So far …2 for 3 on the helpful-informative-people chart.

We met many people that asked if we were mother and daughter and if we had been there before.  It seems like it must be a place that people revisit for nostalgia’s sake.

After a few purchases, (just enough that we made sure we could still limp back to the train) we decided to brave the heat and set out for more of Third Street.  The more things change, the more they stay the same…We remembered some of the old buildings and stores and found some great new ones. We had gelato at Graham’s Coffeehouse and ran into an old “young” friend by the name of Cheryl.

There are soooo many amazing-looking restaurants and shops that I will definitely be taking many more trips to Geneva.  If you haven’t been there, you should.  And if you have been to the Little Traveler before, but it has been a while, you should take a day to go back with your mom, aunt, sister or friend.   Maybe you will find that the memories will come rushing back, too.


8 responses »

  1. Reminds me of The Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island, and yes I occaisionally make ham salad! It’s a southern staple, or used to be. That and benedictine sandwiches, cut into triangles.Will make them next time you come!

  2. The Atrium Cafe looks just like I remember. I also remember the shop that sold Esprit clothing and I believe there was a shoe store that carried narrow widths. Those were my needs.

    • I remember narrow widths too!! Always a struggle to find you shoes 🙂 And yes, Esprit was very cool. Here is a need for ya…Cindy, NEEDS to come ride the train with me.

  3. I grew up in Batavia…….just a hop, skip and a drive down Route 31 to Geneva. We used to ride our bikes there before we could drive. The Little Traveler was (and is) still a favorite. The Petite Luncheon has remained the same and the pies are as good as ever. My Mom took my sister and me there as children and I took my girls. Great memories there!

  4. Too good! Now for an extended tour of Geneva, you must commit to hanging with me for more than 10 minutes and in more interesting places than the train station bar (a first for me)! As for us…Saturday night soccer at Wheaton Academy, 6:30…I’ll be heading your direction if you need some bleacher time, come say hi.

    • Just finished my amazing popcorn. Look at your crazy schedule. We can make planz. I had to use a z because the other two sentences had a z…how often does that happen?

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